Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a non profit social enterprise has sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) over the release of citizens’ information to www.voters.ng, a third party.
PIN asked INEC, in a letter dated September 19 2016, to provide details of the transactions between the commission and www.voters.ng within the time stipulated by the FOI Act (7 days).
According to Tomiwa Ilori, Program Assistant (ICT Policy), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, “This call is being made to ensure that the rights of every Nigerian citizen are adequately protected especially in the age where technologies are capable of being used against individual safety. It is important to also note, that not only does it smack of distrust and lack of due diligence by a public institution in performing its duties to find data of private citizens handed to them in trust in the hand of a third party without any evidence of consent of these citizens sought, it portends great danger to the digital survival of our social, political and economic environment.”
You may wonder what the big deal is. So a third party has citizen information, nothing spoil. Well, actually, this is a very big deal. Your Personal Voters Card (PVC) stores information like biometric data i.e physical attributes, thumbprint, etc. This means INEC has given vital personal information to a third party without your knowledge. Information it has an obligation to protect.
The amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB. 490) both guarantee freedom of expression online, right to opinion, transparency in surveillance, and right to privacy for all Nigerians. This right to privacy is what INEC has apparently violated. And INEC doesn’t exactly have the best track record in terms of online security. Remember last year when hackers took control of the INEC website during the presidential elections? Exactly.
So what happens now?
Well, according to Freedom of Information Act (2011), information must be provided in response to an FOI request within 7 days. That means INEC has until September 26 to respond to the FOI. In the meantime, PIN wants other bodies (and the general public) to join their cause.
PIN Executive Director, Gbenga Sesan says, “We use this medium to call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to heed the call and comply with the request made to them in the interest of Nigerian citizens. Also, we call on all stakeholders interested in ensuring that our social capital as a society is preserved to weigh in on this issue, join hands with us and see it to a logical conclusion.”